Pursuing the Passion and Practice of Prayer
by Joseph Franks
Yes, we all know how important prayer was to saints in Scripture. Whether we study Moses, David, Jesus, or the early church, God’s people were a praying people. It was their lifeblood.
Yes, we all know how important prayer was to saints in church history. Whether we read of John Wesley, George Mueller, or the Puritans, daily communion with God was of the utmost importance.
Yes, we all know how important prayer is to saints in the modern era. Not only do we read books on prayer from our most famous ministers and authors, but we know people in our congregations who passionately practice persistent prayer. Prayer warriors are precious friends to have.
Yes, we all know what the Bible promises. The sovereign and omnipotent God chooses to answer prayer. Supplications to our Heavenly Father are powerful and effective. From the seemingly mundane to the spectacularly miraculous, God loves to say “Yes” to the requests of his children.
Yes, we all know what God commands and the Bible teaches. We ought to pray without ceasing. Men ought always to pray. Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication ought to perpetually flow from our hearts and mouths.
Yes, we all know we are sinful in our prayers. We struggle with desire; it is easy for us to go hours or days without engaging in prayer. We struggle with persistence; when we are convicted of our lack of prayer, and we repent, the effects are short-lived. We struggle with wisdom; we ask amiss; we are more interested in our will being done than in God’s will being done. And finally, we struggle with faith; we only half-heartedly believe God cares and answers. In our prayers of confession, we have to ask forgiveness for our prayers. We value not communion with God as we ought.
Yes, we all know we are missing out. We know that we have not because we ask not. We know that our internal satisfaction and contentment are as sporadic as our prayers. We do not reap the benefits of walking in the Spirit as we could and should.
However, thanks be to the gracious Spirit that dwells within us, we Christians all know we want to be more eager and faithful in our prayer life. We want to be more passionate and have a greater practice. We know we do not have within us a sufficient desire to pray, but somehow we do have a desire to have a more sufficient desire to pray.
(Perhaps we should pause and consider that statement before going forward.)
This is why we ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This is why we cry out, “Lord, increase our faith.” This is why we read books, listen to audio presentations, read blogs, and attend seminars on the subject of prayer. Yes, while we do not have a sufficient desire to pray, because we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a desire to desire prayer more than we do. And we also know that when we more fervently desire prayer, faithful practice is much more likely to follow.
Therefore, what steps can we take to pursue a greater passion and and a more diligent practice in prayer?
Well, a desire to pray is an act of God’s grace. We cannot make ourselves desire sin less. We cannot make ourselves desire prayer more. We desire what we desire, and we need ongoing sanctifying grace from the Holy Spirit to change our inner passions.
However, we can place ourselves in the place where grace is poured out. We can make decisions and place ourselves under the influence of the Means of Grace. (Bible, Prayer, Church) And since prayer is one of the Means of Grace, the following should happen:
- We should trust in the God of grace.
- We should place ourselves under the Means of Grace; we should decide to pray.
- We should find ourselves receiving grace; our passion to pray should increase.
- We should find ourselves praying more because our passion to pray has increased.
- We should find ourselves receiving more grace … and on and on it goes.
This is why Jesus’ disciples looked at their Lord and prayed, “Lord, increase our faith.” A grace-based supplication to God was to be the fuel that led them to greater faithfulness before him.
So, now that we have been encouraged to make ourselves pray, that we might receive grace, that we might receive a greater desire to pray, that we might be more faithful in prayer, that we might be better improved by prayer, here are some practical steps that have helped this author:
1. Let us pray as we read our Bible. We should commune with God as we read the text and not after we read the text. Our devotional times should be conversational times. Let us have quiet times of meditation and prayer in the Word each and every morning.
2. On Sunday, why not look ahead at our week and put fixed appointments of prayer on each day? Why not set aside a fifteen minute block of time and take it as serious as any other appointment? We might even decide to set a audible reminder on our mobile device.
3. Let us leave our mobile devices behind and take a stroll. It is beneficial to walk and talk with Jesus. We can get up from our desk and walk around the corporate complex during our break time. We can take a walk around the block in the evening. Get away from people and talk aloud to Jesus.
4. It is OK to turn off our radios. Drive time can be great prayer time. How much talk radio is productive? Talk and listen to the Wonderful Counselor instead.
5. Let us feel free to spend less time with our prayer lists. It is good to be methodical and disciplined in prayer. It is also good to be spontaneous and flexible. The Holy Spirit is able to bring to mind those things he would have us consider at any give moment of prayer.
6. Why not take advantage of numerous opportunities to pray with friends? Let us utilize prayer meetings, small groups, and Bible studies. Peer pressure can be righteous. Sure, planned prayer meetings can become legalistic means whereby we seek to make ourselves pleasing to God; this is wrong. However, they cannot also be acts of worship whereby we prove our priority and make specific plans to carry out that which we deem to be vital.
7. Let us not read another book on prayer without making the following commitment: After each and every chapter, I promise to spend one minute in prayer for every one minute spent reading the author’s encouragement. The goal of preaching and teaching is application. How many more books and blogs can we read without putting into practice that which we have learned? We need to pray more than we need to read about prayer.
8. Let us strive in church not to offer forth prayers, and listen to prayer, but to pray. Let us make sure that every hymn, praise song, and congregational prayer is worship flowing forth from our hearts.
Struggling friends, perhaps the Holy Spirit has used this blog to whet our appetites for prayer. What ought we to do right now? I know what I am going to do … I am going on a walk. Jesus is calling!